Being used to the traditional 5-star-10-point system of most music reviewing sites, I'm sometimes confused with how to rate things on the 6-point system over here, particularly the 4/6 rating. Too me it seems like the equivalent of the 3/5 star rating, but it's a bit higher than that, but still a bit below the 3.5/5 or 7/10 mark. There are times however when the rating makes perfect sense, such as the case of Incubus, from whom much of their material - including this album - is perfect for the 4/6 rating.
I should explain. Incubus are an undeniably talented band with some unique characteristics to their sound, but always feel a tiny bit short of being something truly great. It sort of tracks with the knowledge I had of them growing up - they got big just before I was old enough to truly experience popular music, and matter a lot to many of the rock fans I know who are 5 to 10 years older than me, and although public exposure to hits like "Drive" and "Wish You Were Here" has never really gone away, the feel a teeny bit like a relic of their time. As successful as they were, they never quite rose to the level of Biggest Band in the World-success you could attribute to the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers or Linkin Park at the time, and their reputation with music critics is oddly silent. Granted, while they are definitely not a nu-metal band, they were easy enough to associate with from a distance, and music critics in the early days of blogging and after the emergence of the garage rock revival, were not exactly in for that. Well I doubt they'd ever be seen as a Worst Band in the World punching bag like Creed or Limp Bizkit or Nickelback or nowadays with Imagine Dragons were and are, but they haven't earned the critical acclaim that Deftones and System of a Down have either. Again, oddly silent.
But enough preamble and back to the music. One thing that always made me interested in listening to Incubus is their reputation for genre mixing - undertones of funk and jazz can be found throughout the band's playing, and of course there are the electronic and hip-hop sounds provided by DJ Kilmore - and had they not taken off as a band, the instrumentalists would all make great session musicians. Guitarist Mike Einziger remains a heavily revered guitarist among rock fans, and it's easy to see why - he has a great taste for unusual chord shapes and creating unique textures with effect pedals, making a good contender for being the Edge of his generation and surpassing what I've heard of Tom Morello's work in Rage and Audioslave, largely because of the stronger sense of texture and dynamics where Morello was usually only in 2 modes: either "heavy riff" or "weird noise solo" and not much else in between.
So with all that praise, why still only a 4? A lot of this knack for colour and experimentation happens in the softer moments of the songs, particularly the verses. Yet when the band racks it up and gets heavy, they can be surprisingly underwhelming. Far too often do the louder parts sound like generic gunk-gudda-gunk stuff fairly typical of 2000's mainstream rock (although it's interesting to note that this was released in October 1999, yet sounds arguably more like the 2000s than any other rock record I can think of besides Hot Fuss). A good example is "Stellar" which has a gorgeous guitar line in the verses, one perfectly matched for a line like "meet me in outer space" (a rare moment of a perfectly executed lyric, but we'll get to that later) only to lead into a chorus any band on the radio at the time could've come up with. This problem is linked to the other major one with this record, the naked torso in the room that is frontman Brandon Boyd. Boyd is one of the most frustrating vocalists I've heard in a rock band. He's got a good voice for sure, and a remarkable range, but he's almost always stopping his melodies from having the impact they desire by how awkward his phrasing is. His lyrics too are often... bad, with attempts to incorporate a wide vocabulary yielding to often clunky results which don't help with his phrasing problem. "When It Comes" is a particularly bad example, reaching almost a Muse/Mars Volta level of pseudo-sophisticated bollocks: "Just when you thought it was safe to think... here comes MENTAL PIRACY!" is how the chorus starts, and that's after getting "It feels like trading brains with an imbecile for real, yes I feel emphatic about not being not being static and not buying philosophies that are sold to me at a steal" in the pre-chorus. It's a shame because the song is still solid and the part later on in the chorus when the chords change abruptly and Boyd goes "what I'm LOOKING FOR!" is pretty great so he's certainly not without potential. Another example of where his delivery lets the band down is "The Warmth" which is actually one of the strongest tracks on here and has a lot going for it - the opening guitar line is brilliant, with an under-water vibe perfect for the whale sounds provided by Kilmore the bridge is also really good, building up some tension over a tense two-note riff with a slow-burning phaser effect. But while the chorus isn't exactly bad, they restrain from putting heavy power chords here, which works well, but the way Boyd sings "Don't let the world bring you down, not everyone here is that fucked up and cold!" those last 5 words sound as awkward on record as they do in text because they don't feel like they're matched with the melody properly, which could also be improved.
As a result, far to often do these songs feel like less than the sum of their parts - which is a shame because on the flipside, there is always something worth hearing there too. Luckily, there are moments where the band gets it right properly, such as opener "Privilege" which is easily the best rocker on the album, avoiding the problems with generic-ness mentioned before by delivering a wonderfully heavy and groovy riff and one of Brandon Boyd's most clearly articulated melodies. Then there's the big hit "Drive" with it's humble acoustic guitar progression and backing beat that's a sly blend of live drums and Kilmore's turntables and a strong melody aided by some great harmonies in the pre-chorus ("It's driven me beFOOORE and it seems to be the WAAAAY"). Plus there's the instrumental jam "Battlestar Scralatchia" which is pretty cool and worth a listen. Incubus would get a better understanding of their strengths next time round with Morning View, the underrated gem from their peak period that I was hoping for. This one didn't quite do it, but it's still good to get a fix of, as long as you know what parts to tune into.Zuletzt editiert: 31.01.2019 11:30